Five-Step Rolling Process
Step 1: Filling.
The filler, usually consisting of two to six tobacco leaves depending on the blend and size of the cigar, is bunched into a rough cylinder. The empunero folds the leaves into the cylinder as straight and uniformly as possible, helping to prevent hard or soft spots in the cigar. The thickest leaves get tucked into the center of the bunch; this denser area is where the cherry burns hottest and fuels a more even burn for the rest of the tobacco.
Step 2: Binding.
The empunero tightly wraps the filler with a sturdy, thick leaf called “the binder.” The binder holds the filler together, giving it a rudimentary cigar shape. The bound filler is now called “the bunch.”
Step 3: Molding.
The bunch is now placed into a mold, which can hold numerous cigars, to solidify its correct shape. Each mold gets placed into a screw-tight press that applies pressure for about 30 minutes. After the first half hour, the empunero turns the cigars, helping to maintain an even, cylindrical shape. Following its time in the mold, the bunch should be in the perfect shape of a cigar.
Step 4: Wrapping.
At this point, the bunch is turned over to the highly skilled hands of the torcedor. A wrapper leaf, which is the most precious and expensive leaf in the cigar-making process, is placed on a dampened cigar board. The wrapper leaf is evenly colored, fairly elastic, and silky in texture. Once on the damp board, which helps maintain elasticity, the wrapper leaf is cut to size using a chaveta, or a roller’s knife. Next, the wrapper is smoothed, stretched, and rolled diagonally over the well-shaped bunch. With each turn it is again pulled tight and smooth, until roll after roll, the bunch is completely wrapped. Torcedors take over a year to become proficient at wrapping, and often, many more years to master the skill.
Step 5: Finishing.
The torcedor applies a small circular portion of the wrapper leaf, called a cap, to the tightly wrapped but slightly open head of the cigar. A cap is typically applied with pectin, which is a vegetable-based adhesive. Finally, the torcedor cuts the unfinished end in a tuck cutter to the exact specified length.